Magazine article The New Yorker

Classical Notes

Magazine article The New Yorker

Classical Notes

Article excerpt

Since purchasing a complete recording of Wagner's "Ring of the Nibelung" cycle is not a decision to be made lightly, generations of listeners have turned to Georg Solti's nineteen-sixties recording on Decca: it's still the best one around. But "Wagner: The Opera Collection" (Decca), a glorious Solti set of the six non-"Ring" operas (recorded with the Vienna Philharmonic and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra), shows how dicey the boxed-set concept can be in the classical sphere, since the stylistic range of the works--from the ruddy, Weber-like Romanticism of "The Flying Dutchman" (1843) to the mystical, Lisztian ether of "Parsifal" (1882)--is so broad.

The 1960 "Tristan und Isolde" boasts a Birgit Nilsson in her prime (she's all woman, not Kirsten Flagstad's wide-eyed adolescent), but the newly digitized sound only intensifies the typically fast and rugged Solti style, which is inappropriate for the most romantic of the composer's operas. …

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